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How Can You Financially Protect Your College-Bound Student?

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If your child is preparing to head off to college, you may be feeling a mixture of emotions -- pride, excitement, and concern. In most cases, this will be your child's first time living on his or her own (even if a Residential Advisor is just down the hall). You may wonder about your child's ability to deal with sticky or difficult situations, including theft, bullying, or a severe injury or illness. Read on to learn more about what you can do to protect your college-bound student's health, safety, and personal belongings.

Health insurance for doctor visits and emergencies

Although your college student is likely a legal adult, he or she should still be able to be covered on your health insurance policy until his or her 26th birthday. However, because insurance policies and coverage can vary widely, you'll want to check your policy's list of network physicians to ensure that your child will be able to obtain less expensive in-network treatment while at college.

If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flex Spending Account (FSA) and would like your child to have access to these funds while at college for help in paying co-pays or purchasing prescriptions, you may want to order an extra card for your child's use. Be sure your child has this card and a health insurance policy card upon arrival at college, so that he or she will be able to receive immediate treatment if involved in an accident or suffering a severe illness that requires hospital admission.

Homeowners insurance to protect personal belongings

Your homeowners insurance coverage may also come into play when your child leaves for college. In most cases, as long as your child is still a legal dependent (that is, you declare him or her as a dependent on your income taxes, carry his or her health insurance coverage, or provide financial support or college tuition), any personal belongings he or she takes to college will be covered under your existing policy.

You'll still want to contact your insurance agent to confirm this coverage and go over your limits. If your child has recently purchased an expensive laptop, pricey textbooks, or other items that may be targeted for theft, you could add these on a separate rider to ensure that you receive the full replacement cost if damaged or stolen. 

Auto insurance to protect against crashes and theft

Finally, you'll need to check your policy with your auto insurance company. If your child isn't planning to take a car to college, you may be able to reduce your insurance premiums by listing your child as only an occasional driver, or even dropping the policy on his or her vehicle (if it will remain parked during this time). If your child is attending college in another state, your policy may offer reciprocal coverage, depending upon your child's residency status. You'll need to go through the various scenarios with your insurance agent to determine whether it makes more sense for your child to purchase a policy in his or her new state or keep the current one. 

If your college student remains covered on your auto insurance policy, you may also want to check to see if your policy offers personal property coverage that will help replace your child's laptop, cell phone, or other valuables stolen in a break-in or damaged in an accident. While these items are covered under homeowners insurance if left in your child's dorm, they may not be covered under this policy if located in a vehicle instead. Often, you'll be able to purchase this additional coverage for only an extra few dollars per month, and it can more than pay for itself if your child suffers an accident or break-in during his or her college career.